The Overwatch Anniversary event is in full swing and like previous years there are a wealth of cosmetics to unlock. While users can obtain all of the previous event skins during the anniversary celebration, one new outfit has ignited a debate online. Tied to the melee-focused healer Brigitte, this skin dresses this heroine in full police riot gear. Revealed earlier this week when the event went live, Brigitte’s outfit was met with a mixed reception.
Following the backlash on Twitter from a number of players, writer Dante Douglas penned an article for VICE titled “Stop Turning Overwatch Characters Into Cops.” In it, Douglas argues that developer Blizzard is celebrating the militarization of police. “Her new skin recalls the black-clad troopers that menaced anti-racist and anti-fascist protesters in Ferguson, Charlottesville, Chicago, Portland, and countless other cities.”
This controversy largely centers around if such a skin can or should be decoupled from real-world incidents of police violence in America. Police violence and misconduct is nothing new in America, but the question is if Blizzard should consider this when designing skins. It’s also possible that a skin like this only becomes problematic once its design mimics our reality instead of the more fantastical designs the game is known for.
Others point out that these outfits are considered non-canon to Overwatch’s lore and don’t define the character. All of the events don’t tie into the game’s larger story so should they even be discussed whether they represent a specific character’s ideology and personality? Unsurprisingly, this isn’t the first police-related skin that was introduced into one of Blizzard’s games.
The agile tank D.Va was met with similar critique following her own police skin getting released two years ago. Curiously, Blizzard released an entire cop-focused update last year for their MOBA, Heroes of the Storm. This saw characters such as Johanna and Greymane wearing similar skins. However, this release wasn’t met with similar ire, possibly due to Heroes of the Storm’s smaller playerbase.
Inversely, Forbes journalist Eric Kain challenged the backlash against the Brigitte Riot Police skin. Kain states in his piece that users can play all sorts of characters in video games, but that the developers are encouraging that kind of behavior. He remarks that “The mere suggestion is insulting to the countless brave men and women who put their lives on the line every day to help serve and protect.” The piece continues and points out that Overwatch itself are a police force formed to stop vicious criminal organizations such as Talon.
With no comments from Blizzard on the skin, it’s doubtful that the developers will change anything in the future. Brigitte’s police skin just marks another controversy in a series of debates caused since Overwatch’s release back in 2016.